Vinton baseball, softball switching to Little League

By Sports Editor Brian Hoffman

Vinton boys and girls missed their recreation baseball seasons this year, and when they return in 2021 they’ll be under a new organization. Last week the officers of the Vinton Booster Club decided to join Little League for youth teams in both baseball and softball.

Brayden Sells watches a high pitch go by in last Thursday’s baseball get together at the Herman L. Horn field. (photos by Brian Hoffman)

“The move to Little League is beneficial to our club on many fronts,” said club President Chris Hairston. “ For our girls it gives us the opportunity to have our sport governed by a nationally sanctioned body, which is beneficial in terms of rules and consistent competition. Both teams will be aligned with an international organization that will provide competitive benefits while being more cost effective as the cost of operating sports continues to rise.”

The boys had been playing in the Dixie League, an organization that is mostly based in the southeastern part of the United States. Little League covers the entire country with an opportunity to play against international competition. If teams continue to win in post-season play they can advance all the way to a nationally televised tournament in Williamsport, PA.

“Little League gives the kids a chance for more recognition,” said Booster Club Vice President Cody Underwood. “The Dixie League was becoming too expensive and we felt like it had too many rules.”

Kids wait their turn at bat.

The Mount Pleasant area teams are also expected to switch to Little League. Cave Spring and Hidden Valley teams have been playing Little League for years. Salem, North Roanoke, Glenvar, Franklin County and Craig County have been in the Dixie League, but Underwood reported that North Roanoke and Glenvar had representatives at the Vinton meeting last week and others are expected to consider a move as well.

The girls’ softball program has been competing in the Roanoke Area Youth Softball Association, or “RAYSA.” In that program teams have a final tournament at the end of the season at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem and Darrell Shell Park, but that’s as far as they can go.

“We want the girls to have the same opportunities as the boys,” said Underwood. “Little League softball has post-season tournaments where the girls can advance. And, we wanted to have all our kids under the same umbrella.”

The official move is expected to come at the August Booster Club meeting. Anyone who objects to the move is invited to state their case at the meeting, which will be held on Thursday, August 6th, at 7:30 pm at the Senior Center behind the War Memorial. All input is welcome.

“Overall it will allow us to serve the community better and team with an organization that gives back to the communities it serves,” added Hairston.

The Little League post-season tournaments have been cancelled this season due to the coronavirus, as have the Dixie League and RAYSA tournaments.

That’s not Dale Murphy pitching, but Vinton’s Michael Dixon. Kids ages 7 to 11 are welcome to show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays for semi-supervised practices and games.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “After a thorough assessment of the impact the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has had on 6,500 community-based Little League programs in 84 countries, and based upon the direction of governmental and public health authorities, and in consultation with medical professionals and our Board of Directors, Little League International has made the difficult and disappointing decision to cancel its seven World Series tournaments and their respective regional qualifying events.”

This year’s Vinton baseball and softball seasons have been cancelled, but area boys have been gathering for informal ballgames on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They started out at Vinyard Park but after the recent flooding the Vinyard facility was deemed unplayable and the games were moved to Herman L. Horn. Any boys between ages 7 and 11 are welcome to participate and tonight’s action is scheduled for the Herman L. Horn field.

“Just show up by 6 o’clock,” said Underwood. “We’ll move back to Vinyard when things get cleaned up.”

Also, registration is now open for fall youth sports.

“Tackle football is in doubt, but we’re encouraging folks to sign up for all sports,” said Underwood.

The recreation program will likely follow guidelines similar to the high school program. William Byrd’s football program is still waiting for an announcement from the Virginia High School League, which is expected next week.

“At this point, we are waiting to hear the announcement from the VHSL on July 15th,” said Byrd head football coach Brad Lutz.


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